By Somali Intellectuals Forum

Mogadishu, Somalia
July 10, 2003

A drunk who had lost the keys to his home was on his knees looking for them under a street lamp, when a passerby offers to help in the search, but after some time with no success, the passerby asked the drunk, “Where did you lose your keys?” The drunk replied, “outside my front door.” “Then why are we looking for them out here under the street lamp?” asked the passerby. “Because,” replies the passerby, “there is more light here.” The Somali reconciliation conference currently underway in Kenya is being conducted like the search for the drunk’s keys.

Ambassador Bethwell Kiplagat is insisting on the same old formula that failed in Sierra Leone, Liberia, Angola and many times in Somalia itself. The Ambassador’s formula is let us satisfy the war criminals’ lust for power then peace will reign. Over the objections of the human rights activists, on July 7, 1999 the government of Sierra Leone and the RUF rebels signed a peace agreement brokered by the United Nations, Organization of African Unity (OAU), and ECOWAS, committed the RUF to lay down its arms in exchange for representation in a new government. It also included a general amnesty for all crimes committed during the civil war, and mandated the formation of a truth and reconciliation commission and a national human rights commission. Sankoh, the head of the RUF who was in custody and sentenced to death was offered a place in a coalition government – with control of the diamond mines. The United Nations assembled a new peacekeeping force, and the RUF fighters, along with the other disparate groups of militia brigands, were supposed to integrate with the national army. That delusion came to an abrupt halt when the RUF took several hundred UN soldiers hostage.

Similarly, the civil war in Liberia was brought to an end with the election of Charles Taylor on July 19, 1997 with 75% of the vote. According to Human rights watch ‘the implicit threat that Charles Taylor would resume the fighting if he lost was high on the minds of Liberian voters. Many categorized their vote for the man who had started the war and whose faction had been responsible for widespread atrocities against civilians as “a vote for peace.”‘ With the support of Ivory Coast, Burkina Faso and eventually that of President Sani Abacha of Nigeria, Mr. Taylor got the power he killed many Liberians for. Somali warlords are hoping that with a similar formula i.e. the support of Ethiopia they too will taste and revel in the power for which they have killed hundreds of thousands of Somalis.

Prime Minister Meles Zenawi should read again this quote from IRIN on 30 Dec 1998 in Abidjan “Liberia said yesterday (Tuesday) it might withdraw from the ECOWAS Committee of Six on Sierra Leone if governments continued to accuse it of arming and feeding RUF rebels.” Just as Mr. Zenawi’s regime is today a member of the IGAD steering committee on Somalia while arming the warlords in Somalia, Mr. Taylor’s was a member of the ECOWAS committee of Six on Sierra Leone while arming the warlords in Sierra Leone. Today, Mr. Taylor is an indicted war criminal for arming and supporting the warlords in Sierra Leone. What a difference a mere four or five years can make!

A government of the warlords, for the warlords, by warlords is unacceptable and will not lead to peace. The warlords Mr. Kiplagat wants to form the Somali government are the same ones who have not respected the ceasefire they have signed in Eldoret on October, 2002. It is about time Mr. Kiplagat learned from the mistakes of Sierra Leone and Liberia and first demand sanctions on the warlords who broke the ceasefire i.e. Col. Abdullahi Yusuf, Mohamed Dheere, Shaatigaduud and Muse Suudi.

Published on the July 10, 2003 Somali Intellectuals Forum.

2003: From Siahyonkron Nyanseor’s Archive